Italy's Ali Group makes $3.3 billion cash bid for U.S. rival Welbilt

(Reuters) -Italian foodservice equipment maker Ali Group said on Friday it had offered to buy U.S. rival Welbilt Inc in an all-cash $3.3 billion deal, topping a buyout bid made by rival Middleby Corp last month.

The company said it was offering $23 for each Welbilt share, representing a premium of 15.5% to the Welbilt closing price on Thursday.

Welbilt shares surged almost 26% to hit a record high of $25 after the move by privately-owned Ali Group.

The bid trumps a $2.9 billion all-stock offer for Welbilt put forward by Middleby. Activist investor Carl Icahn, Welbilt’s largest shareholder with an 8.4% stake, had agreed to that deal.

Ali Group said it was confident the bid would obtain the necessary regulatory approvals without the uncertainty of antitrust concerns as in the case of the Middleby agreement.

“Our $23 per share proposal…is superior in every respect to Welbilt’s pending all-stock transaction with Middleby,” the company said in a statement.

Ali Group said it had received a letter from Goldman Sachs International for new financing to fund the proposed deal.

Based near Milan, Ali Group, with 80 brands, operates worldwide and supplies foodservice equipment to businesses ranging from hotels to schools and supermarkets.

Welbilt did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The news of the deal was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

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